South Front

Turkey’s Operation Peace Spring once again drew wide attention not only to the so-called Kurdish question, but also to attempts of Ankara to create a unified Syrian opposition as an alternative to the Assad government. According to official Turkish statements, the goal of the operation is to secure the southern Turkish border defeating “the terrorism” and allow up to 2 million of refugees to return to their homes. Nonetheless, there are no doubts that the operation, like previous military actions in the provinces of Aleppo, Lattakia and Idlib, will be used by Turkey to expand its own influence.

The Turkish-based Syrian Interim Government headquartered and Turkish-affiliated militant groups would be used as a tool of projecting Turkish military and political influence in the area. The Syrian National Army (SNA) are a brand of militant groups participating in the northeastern Syria offensive. Turkey’s Operations Olive Branch and Euphrates Shield demonstrated that the main goal of such groups is to serve as cannon folder on first line of the battle, while aircraft, battle tanks, artillery and special forces units of the Turkish Armed Forces do the main work. This allows Ankara to pretend that its actions in Syria are not military occupation, but a move needed to return the territory to the moderate Syrian opposition that opposes the ‘illegitimate regime’ of President Bashar al-Assad.

In the area of Greater Idlib, Turkish-backed factions formed the National Front for Liberation in May 2018, which was promoted as a moderate opposition coalition that would limit the influence of Hayat Tahrir al-Sham and other al-Qaeda-linked groups. Despite claiming to have 70,000 fighters (sic), the coalition immediately lost a struggle for power to its al-Qaeda counterparts and became a subordinate to Hayat Tahrir al-Sham. In 2018 and 2019, groups from the National Front for Liberation repeatedly participated in al-Qaeda operations against the Syrian Army.

In northern Aleppo, Ankara was more successful because the SNA formed in December 2017 operates only in the Turkish Army area of operations and much more depends on the logistical and supply infrastructure created by Turkish special services. Since its creation, the SNA has included 30 groups with lofty names like the Army of Elite or the First Brigade Command and a very few trained personnel. Despite this, the formation, according to different estimates, includes from 15,000 to 25,000 fighters. Its members participated in Operation Olive Branch and successfully continued receiving salaries ($300-400 per month) after it. Now, they are involved in the operation in northeastern Syria.

Just a few days ahead of the start of Operation Peace Spring, Turkey attempted to unite the National Front for Liberation and the Syrian National Army. On October 4, the groups even released a statement claiming that they had merged. A few hours after the release, fierce clashes between the groups erupted over properties seized in the Afrin area. This put an end to the unification efforts at least for now.

Another problem is that the Turkish-based Syrian Interim Government and especially its Defense Ministry have no real influence on SNA detachments because it had no levers of influence over funds, weapons, ammunition or even orders that they receive. The full control over these sides of the SNA life allows Ankara to successfully manipulate them, when these groups are needed to some military action. At the same time, this approach undermines attempts to create a unified command to manage these groups because commanders of these groups are constantly engaged in an internal struggle for control over weapons and money flow from their Turkish backers.

This explains why immediately after the end of the active phase of Operations Euphrates Shield and Olive Branch, the SNA dispersed into competing armed groups mostly concerned by looting properties in the seized areas and protecting racketeering of local business and markets. Therefore, the Turkey-controlled part of northern Syria was turned into a safe haven for drugs and weapons trafficking, and organized crime. Turkey’s iron hand once again turned competing gangs into a united force under the SNA brand for Operation Peace Spring. However, as soon as, the active phase of operation ends, the Turkish-controlled part of northeastern Syria will experience consequences similar to those faced by territories captured by Turkish-led forces in 2016-2018.

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South Front

On September 11, the US-backed Revolutionary Commando Army claimed that it had repelled a Syrian Arab Army (SAA) attack in the 55km zone surrounding the US military garrison in al-Tanf. The militant group said that SAA units advanced using a Red Cross visit to civilians in the area.

A Syrian military source, stationed around the 55km zone, denied these claims. The source told SouthFront that no clashes happened in the area. There are about 300 Revolutionary Commando Army militants stationed in al-Tanf. They receive training, weapons and supplies from the US-led coalition despite multiple scandals surrounding this cooperation. Earlier in 2019, the group’s spokesperson, Mohamad Mostafa al-Jarrah, was caught raping a 10-year old girl from the nearby refugee camp.

A prominent Hayat Tahrir al-Sham commander, Abu Abd al-Ashda, left the militant group accusing its current leadership of massive corruption, and failing to defend militants’ territories in northern Hama during the recent SAA advance. According to him, millions of dollars that HTS had for rearmament simply disappeared.

Meanwhile, another key Hayat Tahrir al-Sham commander, Abu Abdul Mohsen al-Jazrawi, was assassinated in southeastern Idlib. The incident happened near the town of Saraqib on September 10. Al-Jazrawi, a Saudi citizen, was reportedly a close aide of the terrorist group leader Abu Mohammad al-Julani.

In the last few months, several prominent foreign terrorists were assassinated in Greater Idlib. The perpetrators of most of these attacks remain unknown.

On September 11, Syrian and Russian warplanes bombed positions of terrorists near the towns of Kafar Takharim and Darkush. The airstrikes were likely a response to the recently increased number of violations by militants in southern Idlib.

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Syrian Army Enters Strategic Town in Idlib after 5 Years

By Staff, Agencies

The Syrian Army forces entered the key town of Khan Shaykhun in Idlib province for the first time since 2014 after heavy clashes with terrorists and anti-government militants, a UK-based war monitor said.

The Syrian troops “entered the town of Khan Shaykhun for the first since they lost control of it in 2014,” according to the so-called Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

The town serves as a major bastion for terrorists in northwestern Idlib province.

Reports say clashes are underway between the Syrian forces and Nusra Front terrorists. The army operations have focused on Nusra fortifications in Khan Shaykhun, leaving many terrorists dead or injured.

Idlib remains the only large area in the hands of foreign-backed terrorists after the Syrian army managed to wrest back control of almost all of the country’s land, undoing militants’ gains.

The government forces have gained more ground against Takfiri militants in the southern edge of Idlib in their latest offensive that was launched last week.

On Sunday, Syrian army troops and their allies established full control over Kfaridoun and Sabbaghiyah farms, which lie in an area between the towns of Madaya and Kafrsajna.

Earlier in the day, Syrian soldiers managed to regain control over Tal Kfar Idoun area, which is located west of a key highway that connects the capital Damascus with the strategic northern city of Aleppo.

They also managed to retake the village of Tel al-Nar and nearby farmland northwest of Khan Shaykhun on Sunday, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

On August 5, the Syrian army declared in a statement the start of an offensive against foreign-sponsored militants in Idlib after those positioned in the de-escalation zone failed to honor a ceasefire brokered by Russia and Turkey and continued to target civilian neighborhoods.

Military expert to ST: Liberation of Khan Sheikhoun in Idleb will be a direct military defeat for Turkish regime

Tuesday, 20 August 2019 12:07

The military and strategic expert has asserted that the liberation of Khan Sheikhoun city will tighten the noose on terrorist organizations’ strongholds in the northern countryside of Hama and it will be a direct military defeat for the Turkish occupation forces in Morek area and in the East of the city.

Retired Brigadier-General Haitham Hassoun told the Syria Times e-newspaper that the importance of Khan Sheikhoun city lies in the fact that it is the terrorists’ largest stronghold in the south of Idleb.

“The liberation of this city will lead to the recapture of the other terrorists’ strongholds in the north of Hama with less human and material cost, and it will put the southern part of Hama-Aleppo road under the supervision of Syrian army for the first time. It will also be a moral defeat for terrorist organizations on all fronts,” the expert added.

As for Turkish regime’s attempts to hinder Syrian army’s advance in Idleb battle, the retired officer made it clear that Turkey has been informed about Syrian army’s determination to liberate Idleb militarily after the failure of Turkey to abide by its obligations in Sochi talks.

“Any move by the Turkish occupation forces will be firmly confronted and this was translated into action when Turkish regime tried yesterday to send vehicles loaded with ammunition, weapons and material equipment through the Syrian-Turkish borders to the defeated terrorists in Khan Sheikhoun city,”  the military expert stressed.

He underscored that the Turkish regime can’t  hinder the Syrian army’s military operations, but it will go ahead with offering logistic support to terrorists without direct involvement in fighting with Syrian army.

“The Turkish enemy will not be involved in a direct battle with Syrian army because this will end in a major regional war,”   Retired Brigadier-General Hassoun concluded.

Interviewed by: Basma Qaddour    


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Syrian War Report – August 19, 2019: Tiger Forces Advance To Encircle Khan Shaykhun

South Front

Government forces are rapidly advancing in southern Idlib inflicting large casualties to radical militant groups.

During the weekend, the Syrian Arab Army (SAA), the Tiger Forces and their allies have liberated the villages of Khirbat Abidin, Hursh al-Tawilah, Mughr Hunta, the farms of Nijm, Nisr and al-Safar, and the Nar Hill. According to pro-government sources, at least 7 units of military equipment and 2 dozens of militants were eliminated in recent clashes.

In own turn, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham and its allies carried out several counter-attacks involving suicide vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices in Madayah and northwest of Khan Shaykhun. Despite some tactical successes, they were not able to turn the tide of the battle and stop the SAA advance.

Government forces are currently aiming to cut off the M5 highway and encircle the town of Khan Shaykhun and other militant positions to the south of it.

On August 17, members of the Turkish-backed National Syrian Army (NSA) shelled positions of the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) at the town of Tell Rifaat and the nearby villages of Zyuan, Nyrabia and Tell Madiq in northern Aleppo. According to pro-YPG sources, the shelling also targeted a positions of the Russian Military Police near Tell Rifaat. No casualties among Russian personnel were reported.

The NSA shelling started in response to an attack by YPG-linked Kurdish rebels in the Afrin Region. The rebels’ attack resulted in the deaths of 5 Turkish-backed militants. Tell Rifaat and its surroundings are under the joint control of the YPG and the SAA. YPG-linked cells use this area as a safe heaven to carry out attacks on Turkey-led forces in northern Aleppo thus provoking Turkish responses and increasing tensions between Damascus and Ankara.

Russian forces are establishing several positions in the southern Deir Ezzor countryside, pro-opposition media reported on August 16 citing local sources. The reports claimed that Russian units are working to establish new positions in the town of al-Jalaa.

Located less than 30km away from the border with Iraq, al-Jalaa is one of the largest towns in the western part of the Middle Euphrates River Valley. A highway leading to al-Qa’im border crossing passes through the town.

The deployment of Russian forces in al-Jalaa could be related to the near opening of the Syrian-Iraqi border as well as the ongoing security operations against the remaining ISIS cells in the region.


Government Troops Are Storming Khan Shaykhun After Cutting Off M5 Highway North Of It (Maps)

Click to see the full-size image

Late on August 19, the Syrian Arab Army (SAA), the Tiger Forces and other pro-government factions started storming the town of Khan Shaykhun in southern Idlib.

Earlier on the same day, government troops seized several important hills north of Khan Shaykhun and cut off the M5 highway, which Turkish forces attempted to use to enter the town.

According to some pro-government sources, members of Hayat Tahrir al-Sham and other radical groups have started withdrawing from Khan Shaykhun. Reports are also circulating that militants are planning to withdraw from the entire northern Hama parea. Nonetheless, these reports still have to be confirmed.

The situation is developing.

Government Troops Are Storming Khan Shaykhun After Cutting Off M5 Highway North Of It (Maps)

Click to see the full-size image

Syrian Army breaks through militant lines to advance on Khan Sheikhoun: video


BEIRUT, LEBANON (6:00 P.M.) – The Syrian Arab Army (SAA) scored a big advance in the southern countryside of the Idlib Governorate this past week after cracking the militant lines near the key city of Khan Sheikhoun.

Chronicling the Syrian Arab Army’s advance in southern Idlib was the Anna News Agency, who captured exclusive footage of the military’s operations and push towards Khan Sheikhoun.

“On August 13, the Tiger Forces faced a challenge. In one night, they had to go half the distance between the cities of Hobeit and Khan Sheikhoun,” the Anna News said.

“When the last gleams of the sun went out over the horizon, the Tiger Forces set their machine in motion. But the Syrian movements did not go unnoticed. Detachments of militants prepared to meet the Tigers with everything they had,” they continued.

“We were especially struck by the number of artillery shells that the militants fired at us. After taking the strategic height of Tel Ays, the strategic city of Khan Sheikhoun was clearly visible. Everyone expected that the troops would go to storm the city, but instead the troops turned north,” they added.

Since this video was posted, the Syrian Arab Army has begun their attack to capture Khan Sheikhoun from the militant forces in southern Idlib.

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‫الجيش على أبواب خان شيخون: تطبيق «أستانا» بالنار؟

الجيش على أبواب خان شيخون: تطبيق «أستانا» بالنار؟
شهدت مدينة خان شيخون حركة نزوح عنها بعدما اشتدت المعركة على أبوابها (أ ف ب )

صهيب عنجريني
الخميس 15 آب 2019

واصل الجيش السوري تقدّمه في محافظة إدلب، قاطعاً خطوات إضافية تمهّد لعزل ريف حماة الشمالي عن ريف إدلب الجنوبي. تطورات تفتح الباب أمام فرض واقع جديد، سياسي كما عسكري، في وقت انطلقت فيه بالفعل حملة «تخوين» شديدة ضدّ «هيئة تحرير الشام» تتّهمها بـ«تسليم المناطق»

دقّ الجيش السوري، أمس، أبواب مدينة خان شيخون (ريف إدلب الجنوبي)، التي تُعدّ واحدة من أبرز المدن الخارجة عن سيطرة الدولة السورية منذ سنوات طويلة. تقدّم الجيش جاء انطلاقاً من الخاصرة الغربية للمدينة (تل عاس)، فيما تتواصل العمليات العسكرية في الجهة الشرقية المقابلة (سكيك). وتحظى المدينة بأهمية استثنائية، نظراً إلى ا تتيحه السيطرة عليها من تأثيرات بالغة الأهمية، على المسارين العسكري والسياسي.

في لغة الميدان، سيكون من شأن نجاح الجيش في استعادة المدينة، حال تحققه، أن يمهّد لفرض واقع عسكري جديد في ريفي إدلب الجنوبي وريف حماة الشمالي. فإضافة إلى الخصوصية الرمزية للمدينة، وما يعنيه انتقال مركز ثقل بحجمها من كفّة المجموعات المسلحة إلى كفّة الجيش السوري من اهتزاز لموازين القوى، تبرز أيضاً أهمية استراتيجية كبرى في حسابات الخرائط العسكرية الراهنة والمستقبلية، إذ يتيح موقعها التمهيد لإحكام طوق يعزل منطقة سيطرة المجموعات المسلحة في ريف حماة الشمالي (مورك، اللطامنة، كفر زيتا) عن خطوط الإمداد التي كانت مفتوحة من إدلب. وإذا ما قُيّض لخطط السيطرة على خان شيخون النجاح (كما توحي المؤشرات)، سيتطلّب إحكام الطوق المذكور وصل مناطق سيطرة الجيش في المدينة الاستراتيجية بمقابلها في المحور الشرقي (سكيك)، علماً بأن المسافة الفاصلة بين النقطتين لا تزيد على 10 كلم.

وفي الوقت عينه، تتيح التطورات المذكورة قطع خطوة بالغة الأهمية على طريق إعادة إحياء الأوتوستراد الدولي M5 (حلب ـــ دمشق). وهو تطور يحظى برصيد مهم في المسار السياسي، إذ يعني في ما يعنيه البدء بتطبيق مُخرجات مسار «أستانا» التي نصّت على فتح الأوتوستراد المذكور، إضافة إلى الأوتوستراد الدولي M4 (حلب ـــ اللاذقية). وتشكل خان شيخون واحدة من ثلاث نقاط سيطرة بالغة الأهمية على هذا الصعيد، تُضاف إليها مدينة معرّة النعمان (التي قد تكون وجهة أساسية للجيش في العمليات المقبلة)، ومدينة سراقب. ويبدو جديراً بالانتباه أن اكتمال الخطط السورية على النحو المذكور يعني أيضاً عزل نقطة المراقبة التركية في مورك عن محيطها، وتفريغ وجودها من معانيه. وسواء أدّى ذلك إلى تفكيك النقطة، أو بقائها في محيط يُسيطر عليه الجيش، فإنه يشكل تحولاً بالغ الدلالات. وقد بدا لافتاً، في هذا الإطار، غياب المواقف التركية الصارمة، سواءً في شأن العمليات برمتها، أم في ما يتعلق بالنقطة التركية. وفيما يعزو بعض القراءات الصمت التركي إلى «العجز عن مجابهة الرغبات الروسية»، تضع قراءات أخرى الأمر في خانة «الرضى التركي»، بفضل التوافقات التي أُبرمت أخيراً مع الولايات المتحدة في شأن «المنطقة الآمنة». ووفقاً لهذه القراءة، يحافظ المساران على تلازم واضح، على رغم عدم علانيته، ما يجعل أي تقدم لمصلحة أنقرة في الشمال مفتاحاً لانكسار جديد تُمنى به المجموعات المسلّحة في «جيب إدلب».

حفلت منابر «الجهاديين» باتهامات مباشرة لـ«تحرير الشام» بالتواطؤ «ضد الثورة»

لا تخرج التعليقات السورية على ما سبق عن المعهود، إذ يؤكد مصدر عسكري بارز لـ«الأخبار» أن «تحرير الأراضي هو النتيجة الحتمية، من دون حاجة إلى انتظار مواقف أنقرة أو غيرها». ويضيف المصدر أن «الأمر ينطبق على كل المناطق، في إدلب وغيرها، والأمر رهنٌ فقط بقرارات القيادة وتقديراتها». في المقابل، تُحجم مصادر المجموعات المسلحة، بمختلف انتماءاتها، عن اتهام أنقرة، وتكتفي بتوجيه الاتهامات إلى «هيئة تحرير الشام/ النصرة». ويقول مصدر محسوب على «الجبهة الوطنية للتحرير» إن «علامات استفهام كثيرة تفرض نفسها لدى الحديث عن الأداء العسكري لتحرير الشام»، مستدركاً بأن «الأولوية في الوقت الراهن تنصبّ على إعادة الأمور إلى نصابها على مختلف الجبهات، وهذا أمر ممكن الحدوث اليوم كما حدث سابقاً، وبعد ذلك يكون لكل حادث حديث».

وخلافاً لمواقف المصادر غير «الجهادية»، جاءت مواقف «الجهاديين» شديدة الوضوح والمباشرة. وحفلت صفحات هؤلاء على موقع «تويتر» وقنواتهم على «تلغرام» باتهامات حادّة ومباشرة لـ«تحرير الشام» بالتواطؤ «ضد الثورة». وقال الكويتي، علي العرجاني (أبو حسن الكويتي)، إن «معظم المناطق التي سقطت إلى الآن هي محاور الهيئة (تحرير الشام)؛ الهبيط و الجيسات والصخر و سكيك، كلها نقاط الهيئة». العرجاني، وهو «شرعي» سابق في «جبهة النصرة»، أكد لـ«الأخبار» أن كلامه يعني تحميل مسؤولية الهزائم لـ«تحرير الشام»، وأجاب رداً على سؤال في هذا الشأن: «نعم، وقد ذكرت قبلها أموراً تبيّن هذه الحقيقة». وأضاف الشرعي السابق أن «الهيئة مشروع هدم للثورة. منذ بداية تشكيلها والثورة في سقوط». كذلك، حمّل العرجاني «تحرير الشام» المسؤولية عن «ارتهان الثورة لقرارات دول»، إلى حدّ «خروج الحل اليوم من يد الثورة، ليصبح في يد الدول». وفي ما يبدو استشعاراً للتطورات المتوقعة، لفت المصدر إلى أن «الثوار من أبناء المناطق يبذلون كل جهدهم، وقدموا بطولات عظيمة، لكن المعركة والمؤامرة كبيرة». كذلك حرص العرجاني في الوقت نفسه على ترك نافذة لـ«التفاؤل»، قائلاً إن «الساحة فيها تقلبات، وقد يُحدث الله أمراً من عنده». وبدا لافتاً، أيضاً، أن «شرعيّ النصرة» السابق أحجم بدوره عن مهاجمة أنقرة، إذ رأى لدى سؤاله عن «حقيقة تواطؤ أنقرة» أن «الهمّ الأول والأكبر لتركيا أمنها القومي وتأمين المنطقة الآمنة. وهي لا تستطيع مواجهة دول، وإدخال نفسها في حرب لا طاقة لها بها».

إلى ذلك، انطلقت، أمس، حملات مكثّفة تسعى إلى «جمع التبرعات»، وتحديداً لـ«جيش العزّة» (وثيق الصلة بالأميركيين)، و«غرفة عمليات الفتح المبين». وانخرط في الحملة عدد من «الشرعيين» البارزين، إضافة إلى ناشطين وإعلاميين. وقال مصدر «شرعي» مُشارك في الحملة إنها «تهدف إلى توفير الدعم اللازم لتمكين الفصائل من الدفاع عن المناطق المحررة، من دون الخضوع لأهواء تحرير الشام وغيرها».

«داعش» يتوعّد بـ«معركة استنزاف»

نشر تنظيم «داعش» إصداراً مرئياً جديداً يوم الإثنين الماضي. حمل الإصدار المذكور رسائل عديدة، من بينها ظهور زعيم التنظيم أبو بكر البغدادي فيه، في إشارة إلى استمراره على رأس التنظيم المتطرف. إضافة إلى ذلك، عكس ظهور البغدادي حرصاً على مخاطبته كوادر تنظيمه في «عيد الأضحى»، على رغم أن المشاهد التي ظهر فيها قديمة، وتعود إلى نيسان/ أبريل الماضي (راجع «الأخبار» 30 نيسان 2019. وُسم الإصدار بعنوان لافت هو «ملحمة الاستنزاف»، وصبّ اهتمامه على منطقة «شرق الفرات»، وتوعّد واشنطن و«قوات سوريا الديمقراطية» بحرب استنزاف طويلة. وكانت جمل مجتزأة من حديث البغدادي المذكور أكّدت أن «لمعركة الباغوز ما بعدها، وسيأخذ المجاهدون بثأر إخوانهم». كما عرض الإصدار مقاطع تُظهر إعدام عدد من الأشخاص، عُرِّف عنهم بأنهم «مقاتلون من الملاحدة» (في إشارة إلى مقاتلي «قسد»)، ما عكس محاولة من التنظيم لاستغلال استراتيجية «الرعب» من جديد، إذ حفل الإصدار بمشاهد قطع رؤوس وإعدام بالرصاص. كما خاطب التنظيم مقاتليه وخلاياه في «شرق الفرات» على لسان «المتحدث الرسمي» أبو حسن المهاجر، داعياً إياهم إلى «إعلان غزوة للثأر تستأصل شأفة أهل الكفر والإلحاد، وتذيقهم أياماً زرقاوية (نسبة إلى مصعب الزرقاوي)». كذلك، «بشّر» المهاجر «جنود الإسلام وأبناء الخلافة في الشام، في البركة (الحسكة) والرقة، إدلب، والخير (دير الزور) وإدلب، وحلب»، بأن «المعركة قد أوقدت نارها من جديد، وسيشتدّ أوارها».

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South Front

Over the past weekend, the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) and the Tiger Forces have continued their advance on positions of Hayat Tahrir al-Sham and its allies in northwestern Hama and southern Idlib.

By August 12, government forces had liberated the areas of al-Hobait, Maghar al-Hamam, Maghar al-Hantah, Sukayk and Tell Sukayk. The SAA also attacked the village Kbanah in northern Lattakia, but was not able to overrun militants’ defense there.

In response to the SAA advance, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, Jaysh al-Izza, the National Front for Liberation and other Idlib groups carried out attacks in the areas of Sukayk and al-Wasta. They even used a suicide vehicle-borne improvised explosive device to break the SAA defense in southern Idlib. Nonetheless, both attacks were repelled by the SAA.

Warplanes of the Syrian Air Force coonducted an intense bombing campaign targeting militants in northern Hama. According to pro-government sources, the goal of the ongoing advance is to isolate militants deployed in al-Lataminah, Kafr Zayta, Murak and nearby areas from their allies in the rest of the Idlib zone.

On August 11, Jaysh al-Ahnar revealed that its three senior commanders had been eliminated by the SAA. The commanders were identified as Tunisian citizen Abu Misab al-Tunisi, the general military commander, Abu Sutif al-Binishi, the general commander of the group’s special forces and Abu Qutadah al-Homsi, the main coordinator of the group’s operations room.

Jaysh al-Ahnar was formed in 2016 by several groups, which had defected from Ahrar al-Sham. Jaysh al-Ahrar was among the first factions to join Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham formed by Jabhat al-Nusra, the Syrian branch of al-Qaeda. The faction left the terrorist group in 2017 and joined the Turkish-backed National Front for Liberation, branded as the moderate opposition group, in 2018.

The fate of Jaysh al-Ahnar serves a demonstration of the key issue behind all the previous efforts to de-escalate the situation in Idlib and separate radical groups from moderate counterparts. Idlib groups join new alliances and change names to hide their real face on a regular basis.

These branding efforts allow mainstream media and foreign backers of militants to claim that ongoing clashes are a barbaric example of the Assad oppression of moderate opposition and democratic rebels.

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Map Update: Syrian Army’s Progress In Northwestern Hama, Southern Idlib

Map Update: Syrian Army’s Progress In Northwestern Hama, Southern Idlib

Map Update: Syrian Army's Progress In Northwestern Hama, Southern Idlib

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Three senior commanders of the so called Jaysh al-Ahrar were eliminated by the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) during the recent battles in northern Hama and southern Idlib, the Turkish-backed group acknowledged on August 11.

The commanders were identified as Tunisian citizen Abu Misab al-Tunisi, the general military commander of Jaysh al-Ahrar, Abu Sutif al-Binishi, the general commander of the group’s special forces and Abu Qutadah al-Homsi, the main coordinator of the group’s operations room.

Syrian Army Eliminates Three Senior Turkish-Backed Commanders

From right to left: Abu Misab al-Tunisi, Abu Sutif al-Binishi and Abu Qutadah al-Homsi

Formed in 2016 by several groups, which defected from the Ahrar al-Sham Movement, Jaysh al-Ahrar was among the first factions to join Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS). In 2017, the faction left the al-Qaeda-affiliated group before joining the so called National Front for Liberation (NFL) a year later.

Jaysh al-Ahrar lost dozens of militants and commander in the last few months while fighting the SAA on behalf of HTS in northern Hama and southern Idlib.

The elimination of these three senior commanders is another major blow to Jaysh al-Ahrar, that may face its end soon.

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